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13/10/20 12:35

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 13 October 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us.

I will start with the usual daily report of COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,297.

This represents 17.2% of people newly tested, and takes the total number of cases to 41,256.

419 of the new cases are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 337 in Lanarkshire, 191 in Lothian and 95 in Ayrshire and Arran. 

The remaining cases are across the other 7 mainland health board areas.

I can also confirm that 527 people are in hospital – that is an increase of 40 from yesterday.

35 people are in intensive care, which is 1 fewer than yesterday.

And I regret to say that in the last 24 hours, 7 deaths have been registered of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

That means that the total number of deaths, under the measure used in our daily figures, is now 2,557.

Every person who dies from this virus was an irreplaceable individual whose loss is a source of heartbreak. Once again my condolences go to everybody who has lost a loved one.

I am joined this afternoon by the CMO and by Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Social Security Secretary. She and I will both talk about the new self-isolation support grant.

Before that, however, I want to mention the Labour Market Statistics for Scotland published this morning - because I know that the renewed anxiety many of us feel about the virus and its health impacts is matched by the anxiety felt about jobs and incomes.

The statistics show that the unemployment rate in Scotland was 4.5% in June to August of this year. That figure is the same as in March to May.

However it is higher than it was last summer. 124,000 people in Scotland were unemployed in the June to August period, compared to 112,000 people over the same time last year.

These unemployment figures are of course concerning – but they are much lower than they would have been, without support for businesses from both the Scottish and UK Governments.

The UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme has been especially important - and we still have concerns that the replacement scheme, which takes effect at the start of November is not comprehensive enough.

It may well lead to a significant rise in unemployment – including in jobs and sectors that, while they may struggle through Covid, would have a good long term future.

The Scottish Government will continue to make that case to the UK Government. However we will also continue to provide our own support when we have the powers to do so.

In total, we have provided more than £2.3 billion of support for business.

Last week, we confirmed £40 million of support for those in the hospitality sector – and others - who are being hit by the current temporary restrictions.

We are currently establishing with business our new Young Person’s Guarantee to ensure employment, education or training opportunities for all young people.

And we launched a new transition training fund last week. It will make training available for up to 10,000 people over the age of 25, who have lost their jobs - or are at risk of redundancy - as a result of Covid-19.

We will do all we can to protect jobs and businesses. But we must remember that the most important thing we can do for the long term good of the economy is keep the virus from running out of control.

This can’t be seen as a contest between health and the economy.

Keeping people safe from a potentially deadly virus is a prerequisite of a strong economy - and in turn, a strong economy is vital for our health and wellbeing.

These are not opposing objectives - even if it sometimes feels like they are - they are two sides of the same coin.

The other issue I want to talk about is the £500 self-isolation Support Grant – our payment for workers on low incomes who have to self-isolate, and who would otherwise lose income as a result.

Shirley-Anne will talk about the details of the Support Grant. But before she does that, I want to stress once again why this is so important.

All of us without exception, could be required to self isolate at any time - if we develop symptoms of Covid; if we find through a test that we have Covid; or if we are identified as a contact of somebody with Covid.

And when we are asked to self isolate, we have to do so completely. That means staying at home immediately, and not going anywhere else for the recommended period.

We can’t go to the shops one last time or go out to make any other preparations – because if we do that, the risk is we could pass the virus on to somebody else.

And self-isolation is really hard. But although it’s tough for anyone, it’s especially tough for a worker on a low income, who risks losing some or all of that income because they need to self-isolate.

That’s what the self-isolation Support Grant is for. It is one of the ways in which we try to ensure that people have the help they need, while they help all of us by self-isolating and protecting us from the virus.

It recognises that nobody should be forced to choose between doing the right thing, and being able to pay their rent or feed themselves.

The grant is targeted at people on low incomes. But other forms of support are available for people who need them.

In particular if you need help with food or other vital supplies while you are self-isolating, you can get help through the Ready Scotland website. 

Shirley-Anne will talk about other support we are providing to people to access further assistance if it is needed.

And if you can’t get online, you can call our national assistance helpline - the number is 0800 111 4000. I will repeat that a bit later in case anyone didn’t get the number just then.

But in addition to the support that national and local government can provide, we can all help too. 

Employers have a role – you can recognise how important self-isolation is, and ensure that nobody feels pressured into going into work when they shouldn’t. And if it’s feasible, and if your employee is well enough, you can support them to work from home.

And all of us – if we are in a position to - can support our family, friends and neighbours.

That’s actually something I’d encourage all of you to think about.

All of us should maybe have a think about how we will manage, if we are required to self isolate. If you don’t think you have anyone you can call on, make sure you have the number of the national assistance helpline – as I mentioned, it’s 0800 111 4000. That’s 0800 111 4000.

But we should also all think about whether we can help anyone else, if they need to self-isolate.

If you haven’t already, maybe discuss that with friends, family, or neighbours - and make sure that you can get in touch with each other if you need to.

One of the things we have seen throughout this pandemic, is the extent to which people have reached out to help their loved ones, their neighbours, and people in their wider community.

Self-isolation over these next few months is a really important way in which we might all need to show that sense of solidarity and break the chain of transmission.

All of us should be absolutely clear in our minds that if we have to, we will self isolate.

But many of us – if we are able to do so - should also be thinking about who we can help, if they need to self-isolate. By doing that, all of us can support each other to do the right thing.

 I want to end today with a simple reminder of what we are all being asked to do.

There is a lot of media discussion today about the scientific advice given to governments by SAGE - the body that advises the four governments across the UK.

All governments just now - you heard me set this out last week - have to strike really difficult balances between vital public health restrictions to control the virus and the wider wellbeing of individuals and the economy.

And so while advisers advise, governments have to decide. And that means we will sometimes reach a different balance - because government has to take account of all of the different factors.

But - as you will see from the SAGE advice published last night - the actions the Scottish Government is taking just now are firmly rooted in scientific advice. We are trying to strike a careful balance - but also to do what is needed to protect the NHS and save lives.

That is why, firstly, we are asking everyone to work from home if possible - that advice has not changed, so please continue to do that. And to employers - please facilitate that for your workforce. 

It is why, second, we are asking everyone across Scotland to stay out of other people’s houses right now - with limited exceptions for childcare and care of the vulnerable.

Not having interaction between different households inside the home is a vital - perhaps the most vital - way of stopping the virus spreading from one household to another which is so important in getting this virus under control. So please abide by that rule too.

And it is why, thirdly, we are asking hospitality businesses to close or restrict operations for the next two weeks - so that we can reduce the places people are gathering together and giving the virus the opportunity to spread.

In Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Ayrshire & Arran, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Forth Valley, all pubs, bars and restaurants should be closed. Only cafes can stay open during the day so that people who might be suffering loneliness at this time still have somewhere to meet a friend.

In all other parts of Scotland, pubs, bars and restaurants can only open indoors during the day and for food and non alcoholic drinks.

I know this is tough - but the fact is, against this virus, we have to be tough. Half measures often don’t work - they still inflict economic pain and harm but don’t have the public health impact.

So these are the tough but necessary restrictions we are asking everyone to abide by, as we try to get the virus under control.

In return, the government will continue to strengthen Test & Protect, we will do all we can to encourage and support people to comply with the advice, and work with businesses to ensure that they can trade safely, with as much normality as is possible during a pandemic.

We will bring all of this work together in a new strategic framework to guide us through the next stage of this pandemic which will be debated in Parliament after the October break.

And finally, remember what underpins all the advice and restrictions. The 5 basic things encapsulated in FACTS that we can all do to stop the virus spreading.

Wear a face covering when you are out and about, especially in enclosed spaces.

Avoid places with crowds of people.

Pay attention to hygiene - clean your hands and hard surfaces.

Keep two metres distance from other households.

And self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms of Covid.

These are the things we can all do to help this national, collective effort against a virus that is no-ones fault - but unfortunately everyone’s challenge.

Back at the start of this pandemic, we all came together to protect the NHS and save lives.

As a second wave takes hold across Europe and hospital admissions and deaths start to rise again, these objectives must come back to the forefront of our minds.

Let’s all do what is asked of us - for the sake of ourselves and loved ones - but also to protect the NHS and save lives.